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Watts Bar Unit 2 News Updates

June 27, 2014 — Skaggs: Employee pride shows during NRC visit to Watts Bar



NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, center, listens to TVA’s Mike Skaggs about ongoing progress at Watts Bar Unit 2. TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes looks on.

Top U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials spent Tuesday touring TVA’s Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 project.

After site briefings with NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane and Regional Administrator Victor McCree, TVA Senior Vice President Mike Skaggs said he believes the officials and their staffs left the site with a positive impression of TVA’s progress.

Watts Bar 2 will be the nation’s first new nuclear unit to come online in the 21st century.

“Visits like this provide the NRC with the information required to assess our work and our readiness as we prepare to request an operating license,” said Skaggs, who leads both construction of WBN 2 and the operation of WBN 1.

The visit included a tour of the control room, the spent fuel pool area and Watts Bar 2 containment. TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes accompanied the group.

They also saw modifications being made in response to the Fukushima event in Japan, including the new auxiliary feedwater tank, the new 225Kv diesel generators, and the FLEX Equipment Storage Building.

“Our message is clear,” Skaggs said. “We are completing Watts Bar 2 so that systems, structures, and components are made like new, that it is operationally consistent with Watts Bar 1, and that the plant operates in a safe, reliable, and high quality manner.”

Skaggs said the pride employees are taking in the Watts Bar project shows.

“I appreciate your pride in how we are building Watts Bar 2, operating Watts Bar 1, and preparing to become a dual-unit site by the end of 2015,” Skaggs noted in a site communication Wednesday. “That pride certainly came through to me Tuesday as we walked through the plant, and I believe it made the same impression on others as well.”

Watts Bar Unit 2 is on budget and schedule for operation by December 2015.

June 4, 2014 — WBN2 cooling tower turned over to Operations


""TVA Field Engineer Alan Dawkins stands under the giant Watts Bar Unit 2 cooling tower.

Watts Bar Unit 2’s cooling tower is now officially on the Watts Bar Operations side of the house.

The tower area was turned over from Nuclear Construction to Nuclear Power Group May 14.

“It’s in excellent condition for future operations,” Construction Completion Project Manager Mike Cooper said. The transition was smooth, with coordination and collaboration helping get the job done.

“It was important that everything be right before we turned it over,” said Field Engineer Alan Dawkins, who inspected the tower’s pipes, structures and components.

“This was a strong and successful team effort where several TVA groups and contract partners all delivered professional performance and quality results,” Cooper said. “Our goal is to turn over a quality product every time, and we’re certainly proud of this product.”

How it works

When a plant is operating, cooling water from the condenser (after passing through the turbine) is sprayed into the air inside the cooling tower and falls about 60 feet, which cools it before it is continuously recycled to condense more steam. Water in the vapor rising from the cooling tower is replenished to the condenser cooling system using water from the Tennessee River. Want more information? Watch this video to see how Watts Bar turns steam into electricity.


May 22, 2014 — Industry, community leaders see WBN2 progress

Representatives from the nuclear power industry and the community of Cleveland, Tennessee, recently got a firsthand view of progress being made toward completing Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2. “These tours are an important part of educating our stakeholders about how we’re moving closer to bringing into operation the first new U.S. commercial nuclear generation of the 21st century – and that we’re doing so while continuing to generate safe, reliable power from Watts Bar 1,” said Watts Bar Senior Vice President of Operations & Construction Mike Skaggs.


Representatives of the Nuclear Energy Institute tour the control room area for Watts Bar Unit 2.

Leaders from across the U.S. and international nuclear industry visited the site Thursday, May 15, as part of a Nuclear Energy Institute East Tennessee trip. The tour included stops in the Watts Bar 2 containment area, the Turbine Building and control room.


Representatives from Cleveland Utilities and the city of Cleveland tour Watts Bar Unit 2.

Earlier in the week, visitors from Cleveland Utilities, the city of Cleveland, and a staffer with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’s office toured the facility. “Visits like these give us an opportunity to showcase the safe, quality work that people across this site are performing, and that builds understanding and support of the plant, TVA, and nuclear power in general,” Skaggs said.

May 7, 2014 — Another milestone reached for WBN2: reactor coolant system ready for testing

The Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 construction team has completed field work on another major system, putting the unit one more step toward completion, fuel load and commercial operation. The reactor coolant system was released to the site’s pre-operational startup engineering team April 25.



“This was a big job and very challenging for our team,” said Dale Morgan, Bechtel construction manager at the site. “Since January, we have invested more than 192,000 craft hours into completing more than 1,200 work orders to get the system, its structures and components ready for testing.”

The system is the heart of the nuclear power plant. It constantly circulates high pressure water through the reactor, four steam generators, a pressurizer and the piping that connects them to the reactor. Inside the steam generators, the heat from the water coming from the reactor is transferred to a second, separate supply of water that turns to steam that powers the turbine generator. See more about how Watts Bar Nuclear Plant uses steam to make power.

“We really have to commend the craft and Watts Bar 2 teams who supported this challenging work,” Morgan said. “It is a real testament to the caliber of these folks. They’ve proved, once again, that safety – personal and nuclear – is more than talk, it is our top priority.”

May 2, 2014 — Quarterly Report: WBN2 on track for December 2015 operation

TVA’s Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 team on Friday issued its seventh quarterly report on construction progress, which reflected continued commitment to project safety, quality, budget, and schedule.

Click here for a complete report, which includes highlights for November 2013 through January 2014.

Key highlights for the quarter include:

Safety performance remained good, with employees exceeding 25 million work hours without a lost-time incident.

Work was performed in a manner that resulted in a Quality Control acceptance rate of 97 percent.

The project met cost and schedule expectations and remained on track to achieve the most likely commercial operation date of December 2015.

The project met a significant milestone when the last major systems needed for open vessel testing, which is the first integrated test of Watts Bar 2 safety systems, were completed and released for pre-operational startup testing.

Current challenges at the project include addressing regulatory and licensing issues; completing complex work and testing while protecting the safe and reliable operation of Unit 1, the operating unit; and preparing for dual-unit operational readiness.

The project has continued to make progress since the seventh quarter ended. Watts Bar 2 employees recently exceeded 26.9 million work hours without a lost-time incident and took an early start to open vessel testing. The ninth of 87 plant systems also was recently turned over from Watts Bar 2 to the site’s Operations organization.

April 28, 2014 — WBN2 open vessel testing gets early start

Signals another step toward fuel loading


Members of the Startup Engineering Team, l to r, Kurt McCormack, Curt Evans, Ross Horvat, Freddie Melton, Larry Jackson, Tom Carson, Rick O’Rear, and O.D. Hayes.

The first in a series of major testing milestones to lead Watts Bar 2 to regulatory approval to load fuel happened last week – earlier than expected.

The Watts Bar 2 Pre-Operational Startup Engineering group initiated open vessel testing Wednesday, April 23.


Test personnel observe water flow into the Watts Bar 2 reactor.

Open vessel testing ensures key safety systems and parts of more than 10 support systems work as designed to deliver water to the reactor vessel.

“It was the culmination of all our efforts when water flowed into the vessel safely, and as expected according to test parameters under our control,” said Senior Manager of Completions and Startup Rob Beecken. “We need to take a minute and recognize it was a good job everybody.”

Open vessel testing will continue on multiple systems in May, culminating in water flowing into the reactor at about 11,000 gallons a minute.

“A lot of hard work, with collaboration, communication and cooperation among many groups, has been done to get us where we are today,” said Startup System Engineer Curt Evans.

April 10, 2014 — WBN2 completes another system; takes another step toward completion

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant has taken another step toward dual-unit operations.

Watts Bar 2 System 7 – the Turbine Extraction Traps & Drains – was turned over from Pre-Operational Startup Engineering to Watts Bar Operations last week.

“It’s vital that we turn over systems according to our plan so that we continue to meet completion targets for dual-unit operations,” said Mike Cooper, Watts Bar 2 Completions Manager.

System 7 is designed to remove moisture from the main steam supply. Valves on the system are opened to remove excess moisture when the unit is at low power levels because excess moisture can erode pipes and cause damage to plant equipment.

The turnover marks the eighth Watts Bar 2 system to be turned over to Operations.

April 2, 2014 — Eight newly licensed WBN operators honored by TVA, NRC

Professionals have special opportunity as Watts Bar 2 heads toward startup

Eight nuclear professionals were formally granted their Watts Bar operator licenses by Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials at an awards dinner in March in Cleveland, Tennessee.

new operators

Eight Watts Bar nuclear professional were presented their operator license by the NRC in March. Site leaders joined those being recognized. Front row, Justin Gallagher, senior reactor operator; Lynne Parker, senior reactor operator; and Brent Henderson, senior reactor operator. Back row: Dave Gronek, Watts Bar plant manager; Sean Connors, Watts Bar senior manager for Operations; Eric Silvers, reactor operator; Thomas Heimel, senior reactor operator; Billy Horton, senior reactor operator; Craig Barger, senior reactor operator; Chris Church, Watts Bar site vice president; Mike Skaggs, senior vice president, Watts Bar Operations and Construction. Not pictured: Victor Bond, reactor operator.

The ceremony marked the licensed operators’ completion of 18 months of training and testing requirements.

Chris Church, Watts Bar site vice president, reminded the group that the licenses they earned represent both a unique opportunity and responsibility: being part of the startup of Watts Bar 2, the first new commercial nuclear reactor in the United States in more than two decades, and the side-by-side dual-unit integration taking place on the site. The responsibility is to be leaders in driving both nuclear safety and operational excellence at Watts Bar.

Reactor operator licenses were bestowed to Watts Bar’s Victor Bond and Eric Silvers, and senior reactor operator licenses were presented to Craig Barger, Justin Gallagher, Tom Heimel, Brent Henderson, Billy Horton and Lynne Parker by Watts Bar NRC Resident Inspector Bob Monk and Watts Bar Operations Manager Sean Connors. Each license carries a unique identifier number that will follow the individuals throughout their nuclear careers.

Fred Brown, NRC deputy regional administrator, told the operators that while each operator’s license was requested by TVA and issued by the NRC, it represents something larger: It binds each operator to the cause of nuclear safety on behalf of all Americans.

In recognition of their encouragement, efforts and sacrifice, Church, Connors and Watts Bar plant manager Dave Gronek commended the spouses and family members of the new operators for their role in assisting with the achievements.

“They would not have been successful without the support of their families,” Connors told those gathered at the ceremony. “They didn’t do this alone, so this is your accomplishment as well.”


January 16, 2014

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 2's completion targets continue to be met in safety, quality, cost, and schedule where the focus has shifted from large-scale "bulk" construction to work required to complete and test individual plant systems.

This information and other details about performance at the project are included in the Sixth Quarterly Update to the Watts Bar 2 Estimate to Complete and in the video below.

During the sixth quarter, which covers August to October 2013, more than 3,300 highly skilled workers achieved more than 22.8 million work-hours without a lost-time incident, and the Quality Control Acceptance Rate remained high, with over 97 percent of work presented for inspection meeting quality control requirements.

Looking forward, Watts Bar Unit 2 is steadily approaching a major milestone — open vessel testing — this spring. This test involves pumping water through systems used when shutting down the reactor.

This ongoing progress means Watts Bar 2 remains on target for a most likely completion date of December 2015, within the estimated completion range of between September 2015 and June 2016.

image of workers at Watts Bar Unit Two

During the quarter, no new risks were identified that might compromise project completion. Several challenges still exist given the size, scope and complexity of completing a nuclear reactor. Those include:

  • Completing complex work and required documentation
  • Completing and testing shared systems without impacting Unit 1's safe and reliable operation
  • Addressing regulatory and licensing issues
  • Successfully transitioning the site into dual-unit operation

Watts Bar Unit 2 will play a vital role in TVA meeting the energy needs of Tennessee Valley families and industry with low-cost, reliable and carbon-free electricity. The Watts Bar team recognizes the importance of its work and is committed to completing the project in a safe manner, on time and within budget.

October 29, 2013

Workers are continuing to complete Watts Bar 2 in a safe and high quality manner, on time and within budget. The team recognizes there are challenges ahead and will work through those the right way to deliver a safe, reliable and efficient unit. That is the bottom line in the Fifth Quarterly Update to the Watts Bar 2 Estimate to Complete being released today. 

Key points in the quarterly update, which covers May - July, include:

  • Safety performance remained strong, with workers exceeding more than 21.3 million work hours without a lost-time incident. 
  • The Quality Control Acceptance Rate remained high, with 96 percent of work presented for inspection meeting quality control requirements.
  • The project remains on track for most likely completion by December 2015 and within a cost range of $4 billion to $4.5 billion.
  • Bulk construction is in the final phase, and the project is focusing on completing and readying plant systems for pre-operational testing.
  • Challenges to finishing Watts Bar 2 have remained consistent and include:
    • Completing complex work and required documentation of work
    • Performing testing on shared Unit 1/Unit 2 systems without impacting the safe and reliable operations of Unit 1
    • Addressing regulatory and licensing issues
    • Successfully transitioning the site to dual-unit operations

image of watts bar 2

Completing the Watts Bar 2 project in a safe manner, on time and within budget will validate the investment TVA has made in nuclear power as a key component in generating safe, reliable, carbon-free, low-cost energy and the value of using a diverse mix of energy sources to meet the Valley's electricity needs.

July 18, 2013

The fourth quarterly update to the Watts Bar Unit 2 estimate to complete confirms the project remains on target for most likely commercial operation to begin in December 2015.

The Watts Bar 2 team is meeting targets for safety, quality, cost and schedule. The team is working the plan that has been laid out, using comprehensive metrics to monitor progress and making effective adjustments when potential issues arise.

Key points in the update, which covers February - April 2013, include:

  • Workers continued to deliver good safety performance.
  • Quality performance as measured by the Quality Control Acceptance Rate remained high, improving to 97 percent during the quarter.
  • Overall, cost performance continued to be better than projected in the revised estimate to complete.
  • Schedule performance met expectations for the quarter. Challenges are anticipated as the transition continues to system turnover and testing, while at the same time, the project accelerates the completion of several plant systems.
  • No new risks emerged that currently compromise completion of the project; regulatory and licensing issues remain the primary risks.

image of workers at watts bar

More information is available in the Fourth Quarterly Update to the Watts Bar 2 Estimate to Complete

April 11, 2013

The third quarterly update (November 2012 - January 2013) on Watts Bar 2 shows that work continues to meet targets for safety, quality, cost and schedule as the project prepares to transition from construction to completing and releasing systems for testing.

construction worker

Productivity is aligning with the schedule and the pace of installing commodities, such as miscellaneous steel, electrical conduit, large valves and tubing, is on track to support completion milestones.

During the quarter, the Watts Bar Unit 2 team continued to work safely and to do good work.   Workers achieved almost 18 million work-hours without a lost-time incident, and the overall acceptance rate of quality control inspections was at 96 percent or better. Cost and schedule performance achieved established goals.

There were not any new short-term issues identified that compromise project completion, but there will be challenges as the unit is built, with regulatory and licensing issues being the primary challenges as the team works to complete Watts Bar 2 by December 2015.

More information is available in the Third Quarterly Update to the Watts Bar 2 Estimate to Complete.

February 6, 2012

Lifting 144 tons of carbon steel and precisely crafted control rods from a reactor vessel to a specially built holding stand and back again is a complex job performed at the start and near the end of every refueling outage for pressurized water reactors like Watts Bar 1.

For the Watts Bar 2 completion project, it is an infrequent task that took place on January 23 after months of detailed planning that was reinforced by the collaboration and cooperation.

In the end, the team achieved the right results and moved the 288,000-plus pound Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor pressure vessel head from its holding stand to the top of the reactor pressure vessel safely and event free. The move clears the way for the Watts Bar 2 team to start the remaining work required to complete construction in upper containment.

image of head lift

December 20, 2012

Watts Bar Unit 2 is on track with the revised cost and time estimates established in April 2012 when the TVA board of directors approved continuing with completing construction of the project.

The second Quarterly Update to the Watts Bar Unit 2 Estimate to Complete (August – October 2012) (PDF, 765 kb) shows the project is meeting targets for completion between September and December of 2015 and within the projected total cost range of $4 billion to $4.5 billion. The update also verifies safety performance remains excellent and the quality of work remains high.

During the quarter, the project focused on efficient performance of construction activities; maintaining the overall pace of installing commodities, such as valves, piping, and cable; and continuing to implement improvement initiatives. 

TVA has invested in nuclear power as a key component to generating safe, reliable, clean, and low-cost energy.  Completing Watts Bar Unit 2 safely, on time and on budget will validate this investment and increase confidence across the industry that building new nuclear is the right course of action in preparing for future energy needs.


October 26, 2012

TVA has issued its quarterly update on construction progress on Watts Bar Unit 2, which will be the first new reactor to achieve commercial operations in the U.S. since Watts Bar Unit 1 in 1996.

The report verifies performance is consistent with detailed completion cost and time estimates approved in April 2012 by the TVA Board of Directors.

The first Quarterly Update to the Watts Bar Unit 2 Estimate to Complete (May - July 2012) (PDF) shows the project is on track for completion between September and December of 2015 and within a total cost range of $4 billion to $4.5 billion. The update also verifies safety and quality remain high and there are no new risks in the short term that compromise completion of the project.

The Watts Bar Unit 2 team made good progress during the quarter. This is progress for TVA’s entire nuclear fleet as we work to ensure dual-unit operational readiness at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.

TVA has a balanced energy mix that provides reliable and cleaner power for the Tennessee Valley. Watts Bar Unit 2 will produce more than 1,100 megawatts of energy at competitive prices and be another major source of emission-free electricity. It is an important and cost-effective part of that balanced mix, and as with any energy generation produced by TVA, safety and operational excellence are paramount.”

October 10, 2012, Talk about a proud team! 

group photo of the team

The sheet metal craft at Watts Bar 2 were able to save 11,000 man-hours compared to a forecast on one scope of work.  This savings does not include the additional hours and dollars saved by field engineering, design engineering, project controls, materials management and others. 

The scope of work included the fabrication and installation of four specially designed hangers that support a critical section of large duct for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in four different locations at Watts Bar 2.

These specially designed hangers weigh approximately 6,100 pounds, are made up of over 120 pieces and have over 100 inspection points.  Since the hangers twist and turn to make incredible connections to the base plates in highly congested areas, they were rightly given the name “spider hangers.”

photo of spider hanger

September 19, 2012, Another safety milestone achieved at Watts Bar 2

Workers at Watts Bar 2 recently surpassed 16 million work hours without a lost-time accident. This accomplishment demonstrates that safety is more than talk at the project — it is a way of life.

Building a nuclear plant is a complex task with lots of inherent safety hazards. Watts Bar 2 construction workers are demonstrating their commitment to keeping themselves and others safe by:

  • Wearing the right personal protective equipment for every job
  • Taking 2 minutes before they start work to identify potential hazards
  • Immediately reporting potential safety issues and all injuries so appropriate steps can be taken to prevent future injuries
  • Intervening with co-workers to protect each other from unsafe acts and to reinforce safe behaviors

Making the workplace safer doesn’t have to be complicated. Many times it means just paying attention and taking simple steps to remedy an obviously unsafe condition. One Watts Bar 2 worker recently noticed a large panel had been left in place after it was no longer needed. This created a potential hazard, limited access and made it hard to move materials in and out of the area. The worker used processes in place at the plant and got the help he needed to have the panel removed, making the area safer and easier to work in.

In ways like this, Watts Bar 2 workers are committed to going home to their families as safe and healthy as they came to work and helping their teammates do the same. By not walking by anything that is unsafe and taking quick action to fix things that diminish a safe workplace, the Watts Bar 2 team is moving forward to achieve the safe and quality completion of the unit by December 2015.


Picture of welder

A worker welds on a component that will heat water for use in the Watts Bar 2  steam generators.  The steam generators will make the steam that will be used to generate electricity when the unit is put into operation.

August 1, 2012

Performance continues to meet established targets at Watts Bar 2 where workers are focused on tasks such as installing more than 280,000 feet of cable, 5,000 conduit supports and 3,500 tubing supports. 

For the week ending July 19, workers at Watts Bar 2 earned over 20,000 work hours against a target of 19,561, resulting in a schedule performance index of 1.02.  A schedule performance index greater than 1.0 indicates more work was completed than was planned.  The schedule performance index is one of hundreds of indicators used to track progress at the construction project.  The indicators help make sure that potential performance issues are recognized early so actions can be taken to keep the project on track.

The safe and quality completion of Watts Bar Unit 2 by December 2015 will help TVA deliver a balanced mix of energy sources and increase the supply of emission-free electricity.

July 11, 2012

The Watts Bar 2 construction team is on track with the revised schedule and budget established earlier this year to complete the unit. The planning of work-order packages, which helps productivity, is continuing to improve, and assessments and monitoring are in progress to make sure the right controls and oversight are in place.

The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors in April 2012 approved continuing the construction of Watts Bar 2 with a revised estimate to complete of $4 billion to $4.5 billion, with a most likely estimate of $4.2 billion. The unit is estimated to be complete between September and December 2015.

The safe and quality completion of Watts Bar Unit 2 will help TVA deliver a balanced mix of energy sources and increase the supply of emission-free electricity.


Watts Bar Construction




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